Three Reasons Why Duke Could Beat Virginia Tech
Fresh off an emphatic 45-24 victory in last Saturday's opener against NC State, the Virginia Tech Hokies travel to Durham, North Carolina for the first road game of the season against the 0-3 Duke Blue Devils.
Duke, who beat Virginia Tech 45-10 last season in Tech's worst home loss in two decades, has gone 2-9 since beating the Hokies. Tech, meanwhile, is 7-3 since the home debacle and is looking to exact revenge as the program continues to right the ship.
The Hokies sit here on Thursday afternoon as a 10.5-point favorite going into Saturday. As a heavy favorite, there aren't too many ways that we should expect Virginia Tech to lose this football game. However, here are a few ways that the Hokies could lose in a shocker on Saturday afternoon.
1. Duke QB Chase Brice limits the turnovers and hits his stride
When Chase Brice transferred to Duke from Clemson, the one thing that was apparent is that he would add immediate talent to a quarterback room that so desperately needed a player of his caliber a year ago.
Brice can make all the throws, that's not the issue. The problem is that he's been erratic, forcing throws to covered receivers, and has distributed a conference-high six interceptions through three games. Brice, whether Duke fans want to admit it or not, is a big reason why the Blue Devils have the worst turnover margin in the country (-9) and have started the season 0-3.
But what if he doesn't turn the ball over? Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente believes the Hokies need to be ready for that possibility.
"He's (Brice) a big, strong-armed kid. I haven't seen a throw that he can't make...it's only a matter of time before he cleans up the turnovers and becomes a really productive player."
Could Saturday be the day that Brice turns it around?
2. Virginia Tech struggles to contain Duke's defensive front
Virginia Tech rolled through NC State's defensive line in the opener, barreling through the Wolfpack front seven en route to rushing for over 300 yards.
Duke's defensive line is better...much better.
Duke defensive end Victor Dimukeje already has four sacks and a forced fumble on the season, highlighting a group that has played well despite all of the offensive issues that the Blue Devils have encountered in the first three games. Despite the struggles of the offense, Duke's defense as a whole ranks 41st out of 72 teams who have played this season in scoring defense, allowing 30.3 points per game.
Is Duke's defense great?
No, but it is much better than the one the Hokies faced last week, and Tech needs to be ready.
3. Lack of 3rd down conversion success
If there is one area for the Hokies to improve upon after a largely successful opener for the offense, it would be on 3rd down. Tech went a pedestrian 2-of-9 on 3rd down against NC State, which is an odd stat considering how well the offense played against the Wolfpack.
Like I mentioned above, the Duke defense, especially in the front seven, is much better than the defense Virginia Tech faced last week. This is especially the case on 3rd down, as Duke has a top 30 defense nationally - 28th to be exact - allowing only 37.8% of attempts by opposing offenses.
After how poor the Hokies looked in 3rd down offense last week, Tech will need to improve situationally in this game, albeit against a better defensive unit. This will be an area to keep an eye on, especially if this game is closer than most expect.